I am not a fighter; I am not a soldier. I would never have enlisted in the military because it just wasn’t my thing; my choice. But, I support our troops, even if I, at times, don’t support the war they are fighting, and that is a distinct difference.
Still, I wish our government supported our troops, and not just when the time comes to ship them off to a war zone, but when they come home, bruised, battered, limbless, suffering from PTSD; support them.
But, and this galls me even more, what about supporting our LGBT men and women in the armed forces when they come home, because our government does not, and they just voted last week to clearly state they will not support same-sex couples who happen to be veterans of the United States military.
It’s basically: Go ahead and fight for me, and die for me, but if you come home, and you’re gay and you get legally married, you will be denied benefits because, well, gay.
Last week an amendment that would have ensured that veterans in same-sex marriages would have access to certain spousal benefits wherever they live, regardless of that state’s laws regarding marriage equality, failed, even though eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.
As it stands now, US code for veterans benefits looks to the state where the veteran resides, and not the state where the veteran was married, to determine whether a couple is legally wed, even though, and let’s be queer, these couples are married, legally, in the eyes of the federal government in all other rights, benefits and privileges, no matter where they live, but based on where they were married.
Worse yet, despite the Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA], the Obama administration determined it couldn’t afford veterans spousal benefits to married same-sex couples living in states without marriage equality, even though the administration found a way to allow some benefits; it does not offer ChampVA [health care for spouses of disabled veterans], higher disability compensation for disabled veterans with dependents, full access to VA home loans and many survivor benefits for widows. And these benefits are denied the men and women who selflessly served our country because we do not have nationwide marriage equality.
Now, let’s take a moment to cheer those eight Republicans who voted for the amendment:
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia
Senator Susan Collins of Maine
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio
And let’s take more than a moment to realize that Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, running for President, voted against the amendment, and that Senator Lindsey Graham, who just loves sending soldiers to war, didn’t even bother to vote; Senator Marco Rubio also failed to vote.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat from New Hampshire, who introduced the measure said, after the vote:
“It’s tremendously disappointing that the Senate would quietly vote to deny important benefits for those who have served our country in uniform and their families. Veterans served their country bravely, and yet some are deprived of the very rights they risked their lives to protect. The impact of this discrimination is real. Monthly benefits are less; spouses and children are not eligible for medical care at the VA; and families are not eligible for the same death benefits. While I am disappointed, I am also resolved to continue fighting to make sure that all veterans get the benefits they’ve earned regardless of who they love or where they live.”
We ask these men and women to protect us, both here and abroad, but when they come home, we deny them the same rights and privileges they are protecting, just because they happen to be gay.
If for no other reason, this is why we need full marriage equality in every square inch of this country.